Cruel Intentions

ENG 100 A

Drama Review Essay


Director Roger Kumble puts a modern day twist on Choderlos de Laclos’ French novel, “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” (1782), in the teenage-drama “Cruel Intentions” (1999), which can also be compared to 1988’s hit movie, “Dangerous Liaisons”.

In Manhattan’s Upper East Side, seduction, revenge, and conquest rule’s the lives of four, wealthy, prep-school teenagers. Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Philipee) is the school’s most notorious sexual terror. He prides himself on the reputation he has created for himself through his promiscuous rendezvous with innocent girls. Alongside Sebastian, his stepsister, Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar), is also a conniving and “loose”, rich-girl-gone-bad. The two then learn that the new headmaster’s daughter, a virgin and the epitome of chastity, will be staying with Sebastian’s Aunt for the remainder of the summer. Sebastian’s frustration of being able to successfully pursue every girl he has chased, except Kathryn, calls for him to set up a challenge. Each having their own agenda’s, the siblings decide to place a bet. If Sebastian can deflower the Annette by the time school starts, then he wins a night with Kathryn. But if he fails- Sebastian’s beloved 1956 Jaguar Roadster becomes Kathryn’s. Meanwhile, Kathryn is seeking revenge on an ex-lover, Court Renyolds, by going through his new young sweetie- Cecile Caldwell (Selma Blair). In attempt to help Kathryn, Sebastian helps corrupt the sexually inexperienced and over all naive Cecile, who falls for her black music teacher, Ronald (played by Sean Patrick Thomas). As the stakes are high and hormones are raging- the most unlikely feeling sets in: love.

“Cruel Intentions’s” plot is enhanced by the great use of visual aspects. The poshy suburban location of the movie adds to the snobbish attitudes of the debutantes. By placing the plot in New York City it gives the feeling of excitement and fast paced relations. The costuming of each of the characters also makes their personalities shine. By dressing them according to their personalities, it allows the viewer to tell the many characters apart. For example, Cecile is usually dressed in childish outfits of bright colors, while Kathryn is outfitted in dark colored revealing clothes. Even more adding to the overall feel of the movie is the soundtrack. With songs like the Counting Crows “Colorblind” and the Verve Pipes “Bittersweet Symphony”, the events of the movie are made more dramatic by the music played as they occur.

Along with the costuming and music, the success behind the movie lies in the talent of the actors and actresses. Most famous for her role as “Buffy” in the TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sarah Michelle Gellar takes on a role extremely different from her usual persona on TV. Her attitude and crude ways are great as she proves she’s more than just a pretty face. Ryan Philipee and Reese Witherspoon’s chemistry on set is outstanding due to the fact that the two are an actual pair-off screen. Selma Blair’s character as Cecile is easily portrayed because of her age of only 17 while shooting the movie. The remake of “Cruel Intentions”- “Cruel Intentions 2”- was a flop mainly because the actors could not nearly size up to those who played in the first film. In my opinion, the cast was perfect and I couldn’t think of anyone better to play each role. Their true ages of most of the crew (aged in the mid 20’s) goes unnoticed because of their great acting.

The context of “Cruel Intentions” involves a handful of social issues. Being that the storyline is based around sex, many of the scenes are very sensual. Whether the movie is considered tasteless or simply erotic is based on the ones opinion, yet either way the movie is “deliciously trashy” according to Ken Fox, TV Guides movie critic. The use of drugs and alcohol is also just as questionable as the sexual relations between teens. Kathryn’s use of cocaine and the constant drinking of wine and hard liquor do send out a bad message to the young audience. Gay and Lesbian issues are also presented in the movie. Kathryn and Cecile share a passionate kiss in Central Park. Obviously, the kiss left quite the impression because Gellar and Blair won an MTV Movie Award for “Best Kiss”. The homosexual midnight sack session